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What was the worst of Mists of Pandaria?

I recently posted my list of the best of Mists of Pandaria, so you must have seen it coming. An article discussing what I personally think was the worst of Mists of Pandaria. You will notice that many of the same things crop up on both lists. Well, that's just because there can be both positive and negative sides to any addition. It's all about perspective, you know?

Cross-realm calamities

Let's begin at the beginning. It seems like a logical point. Cross-realm technology, as I stated in my nice list, has been instrumental in allowing of many players' favorite features in the game. The sensationally popular Flex raiding, for example. But it's also responsible, on the downside, for some pretty negative happenings.
Cross-realm Zones arrived with 5.0.4, taking the world by surprise, in an effort to refill lower-level zones and allow players to feel like they were in an MMO. The trouble is that WoW is designed in such a way that, when you're trying to quest efficiently, the last thing you want is other players around. Mobs don't multi-tap, nor do bosses, and even now the spawn rates for quest mobs and items and bosses seem way behind that required to satisfy all the players in a given CRZ.

And what's worse, even, is that CRZ has led to various issues such as consequence-free griefing of low-level players by max-level players. Because of the nature of the system, a level 90 can run into a low level zone, kill all the players and leave, with basically no consequences. If they should return to said zone, chances are they'll end up on a different shard. It's also led to things like players using the CRZ tech to go from server to server, hunting and killing rares. This clearly goes from most problematic to least, but still, CRZ get a place on the naughty list.


Daily Quests

Now, now, you all saw this coming. But don't roll your eyes and skip ahead. Listen, I know daily quests aren't something I enjoy. But I see their value. Daily quests are not inherently bad. They are inherently tricky, as it's really hard to design a quest that continues to be fun with repetition. It's almost impossible, even, so the design goal is to either make them engaging enough via story that they don't wear players out, or to make them straightforward enough that completing them isn't too much of a chore.

Mists had examples of both types of quest. While I never did them myself, the community reaction to the Operation: Shieldwall and Dominance Offensive quest chains was really positive. People loved the evolving story, and feeling like a part of it. The other type of daily quest, the straightforward one, was shown off really well with the Isle of Thunder PvP quests. As someone who really dislikes questing, let alone repeated quests, I still did them. The objectives were clustered together, so the quests took about 20 minutes to complete, and you get 525 honor, a little conquest, some Lesser Charms and an Arcane Trove for doing them.

The 5.0 daily quests, however, did none of these things. They were long grinds, arduous, thanks to the gating. They weren't particularly exciting quests, or at least there were very few that bore repetition. All of this would have been fine, though, were it not for the fact that, if you wanted to be competitive in PvE, you had almost no choice but to do them. See, it wasn't the quests themselves that were inherently bad, although there were bad things about them, it was that there was little option but to do them.

It made it really hard for players to have alts that were raid-ready as Blizzard specifically said that they were aiming to make it engaging for one character. There was also pressure put on players to log in every day and do their chores -- hardly "fun"! This was by far the biggest complaint made on Twitter in response to my asking what was the worst of Mists. As ever, it sounds like Blizzard is overcompensating for this error come Warlords.

PvP

I said in the good things column that PvP deserved a place on both lists. And it's true, I stand by my praise for the changes I mentioned there, and for Brian Holinka's bold experimentation. But, unfortunately, Mists has not been a good expansion overall for PvP. Recently, participation is up, largely due to convenience, but the expansion started off really badly. It took months for the Stampede bug to be fixed in arenas, and warriors and mages were far too strong, and have been throughout much of the expansion. The upgrade system was problematic at best, and meant considerable PvP item level escalation, leaving newer players some 30 ilvls behind fully geared ones.

While Silvershard Mines was a cool idea, the map began the expansion in a terrible state of imbalance, and was only recently repaired. But the biggest issues have been balance related, and the three things you don't want to be excessive in arena -- burst damage, burst healing and CC -- have been completely out of control throughout most of the expansion. While I have nothing but praise for bold changes and trying to make 7-year-old systems work better and be more appealing, it's no use if the game they're surrounding isn't enjoyable.

5-man dungeons

5-man dungeons? What 5-man dungeons?! Exactly. While we got a few at the start of the expansion, to level with, and at max level, it wasn't many. The leveling dungeons, while later expanded to include additional instances, were woefully few with just four. And the max-level ones weren't much more plentiful.

Blizzard attempted to fill the 5-man void with scenarios, which, while great for DPS players, were disappointing for healers and tanks. Yes, you could heal or tank in them, but, certainly in the normal ones, you were really just slowing your group down. And even in the heroic ones, many healers and tanks like me missed the "trinity" of healer, tank, DPS. 5-mans are where you learn to tank and heal, where you try out new things and new builds. And they were woefully lacking in Mists of Pandaria.

They're also, for me at least, one of my very favorite ways to spend my gaming downtime. Not doing arenas or raiding? 5-mans are my default response to that situation. And as someone who loves 5-mans, I really missed getting new ones through the expansion. I would honestly say that, as someone who didn't do the daily quests in 5.0 thanks to a heavy investment in PvP gear bringing me up to a decent item level, the absence of new 5-mans is my biggest PvE complaint.

And on the same topic, the revamp of the Cataclysm dungeon valor earning system is one for the naughty list. In Cataclysm, your first seven dungeon completions per week earned you valor, whether you did them all on a Wednesday or logged in every day and did one. In Mists, that was changed so that they all earned you valor, but only the first one per day earned you an increased amount. This meant that, yet again, players were pressured to log into the game every day. I'd love to see a return to the Cataclysm system come Warlords. So, that's my naughty list, what's yours?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

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